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BATMAN (2016-) #81 review



Batman (DC Comics)

You can pickup your copy of Batman #76 now where all good comics are sold.


It’s time for the big showdown. Batman is calling Bane out. But is the Dark Knight Detective ready to take on the foe who broke him worse than any other that came before? And what else stands in Batman’s way, to put an obstacle between him and his enemy? Tread lightly, Batman, because not only do the lives of your son and trusted friends hang in the balance, but your entire home could collapse on top of you!


If Tom King’s run on Batman has taught me anything it’s that he’s the master of telling a story which can spin itself out over a long period of time. Now you could easily look at that statement and write King off as a padder. But that’s not what I’m trying to say.

The complexity of the story King is telling, 81 issues worth at this stage – is huge. From Gotham Girl, to Bane’s complex planning, to the Bat-Family and then to Bat/Cat themselves. There’s a huge amount of balls in the air across the book and King is doing his utmost to keep juggling them all.

That being said there will undoubtedly be a lot of readers who remain frustrated by this issue. Not because it isn’t a story worth telling. But because, for the umpteenth issue in a row, King ignores what happened to Alfred in order to tell a different story.

What impresses me, and clearly pisses off others, is that King isn’t afraid to make difficult storytelling choices. He could easily have chosen to pick up the Alfred cliffhanger in the following issue and it could all have been resolved months ago. But instead he chooses to tell the parts of the story he feels most necessary rather than those which might be most gratifying.

I love Alfred as much as the next reader, but his status is less important right now than Bruce squaring up to Bane. This issue finally moves the final pieces in to place to begin what, I hope, will be the final battle in the City of Bane arc.

Once again the issue revolves around a heavy level of exposition from Batman. It’s clumsy at times, offering the reader almost a complete recap of this entire run of the book. But in some cases it’s entirely necessary to help bring the narrative strings together. It easily ensures that even the most casual reader will be up-to-date by the time Batman and Bane are in the same room together.

Exposition aside this issue is let down by an odd battle between members of the Bat-Family and Flashpoint Batman, aka Thomas Wayne. The scene starts out almost most like a horror movie, with the family surrounding the evil Batman and easily outnumbering him. A battle ensues and again the Bat-Family have the upper hand.

When they family come to decide how to dispose of Thomas – show him mercy or kill him off – he steals his moment to fight back.

The scene frustratingly cuts away and only through captions overlaid on the famous Wayne Manor grandfather clock do we hear Thomas Wayne systematically take down several Robin’s, Batgirl, Batwoman and Huntress.

Part of me imagines this Batman would absolutely be able to take each of them down but having the scene cut away like this feels like either King or artist John Romita Jr. didn’t feel as confident. I would much prefer to have seen the scene fully visualised rather than have its impact taken away.

As City of Bane speeds towards its conclusion the pace is hotting up for sure. But now it’s time for King to transition from setup to pay-off. As a whole the arc has been successful but these individual chapters are a little more difficult to digest when given the forced break of fortnightly publishing.


Batman #81 continues Tom King’s tradition of stringing out the story you want to hear by focussing on everything else which is going on. Whilst this issues moves a breakneck speed it avoids the question on everyone’s mind: what happened to Alfred Pennyworth!?


Batman #81 is written by Tom King with pencils by John Romita Jr. and Mitch Gerads, inks by Gerads and Klaus Janson and colours by Gerads and Tomeu Morey.

Batman #81 cover art by John Romita Jnr

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